File Explorer for Windows Phone

Lately, Microsoft has been bringing up lots of changes to its Windows Phone platform. With Windows Phone 8.1 (which is available as developer preview) they’ve added long awaited features like action center and voice assistant. To top it all, they recently released a file explorer app, simply called Files.

File Explorer for Windows Phone

What is it?

An app, which enables you to browse contents of Phone and SD card, if you have one. In addition, you can also see the remaining space on those. Finally, you can open files which are supported by your phone. For the file formats which aren’t supported directly, it offers to search the store for an app which might be able to open the file.

The Good

File explorer was one of the most requested features on UserVoice. Even though it’s not really necessary, it is a nice addition to a power user’s toolkit. App performs really fast even on folders containing large number of items. It even handles ZIP files just fine. There’s a nice share menu which will let you share your files with your friends. But that’s just what you’d expect from a Microsoft app.

The Bad

The app doesn’t accomplish much beyond showing the content of SD card. While it performed well with the faster class 10 SD cards, a small delay was observed with class 4 SD cards, especially with large folders. Other than that, there isn’t much to be supposed.

The Ugly

Yes, there is an ugly part. Things in this section aren’t ‘bad’ as they are pretty functional. But they are ugly, visually.
First and foremost, the application bar icons are all messed up. The design guidelines clearly state that the icons should fit well inside the circle, not try to jump out of circle. Here is a quote from the guidelines:

Icon images should be 48 x 48 pixels in size. The foreground graphic for the button should fit in a 26 x 26 area in the center of the image so that it does not overlap the circle.

Now, let’s take a look at how the application bar looks in Files. The multi-select and new folder icons are trying to lay a hand on the inside of the circle. The image at right shows similar button in Mail app.

Original application bar icons in Mail app
Original application bar icons in Mail app


Poorly designed application bar in Files app
Poorly designed application bar in Files app

That’s how a multi-select icon should have looked. Why they had to go and reinvent the wheel instead of using the existing icon, remains a mystery.
Now, let’s try to launch a music file from the app. Here’s the player screen we get.

Player UI is completely blank
Player UI is completely blank

Yes, it’s completely blank. One would expect it to read tags from the file and show some information like song title, artist, etc. Let alone reading the tags, the interface doesn’t even show name of the file it is currently playing.
Admittedly, the player UI is not a part of app. Probably, the system itself is handling it and we would get the same UI if an MP3 file was launched from some other app. However, the file explorer makes it much more exposed and prominent.

Suggested improvements

Since we are on the topic, here’s my to-do list for the development team.

  1. Fix the application bar icons. There’s no excuse for not sticking to the design guidelines which are one of the distinctive features of Windows Phone. Bad design in official app only sends the wrong message.
  2. Work on the player UI. It’s highly uninformative in its current state.
  3. Add support for Samba. It’s called ‘Windows Network Share’ for a reason. It would be great browse samba network shares on phone.
  4. USB OTG support. Because, why not? It’d be great to use pen drives on the go.
  5. Optionally, FTP and/or UPnP support could be added. This would give users an ultimate file explorer – just like the one on desktops. Moreover, it opens endless possibilities for app developers. Currently, the video players like VLC and GoodPlayer (on iOS) have to implement their own file browsers. On Windows Phone, they could simply handle the video playback when file is launched from the Files app.

So, that was Files for Windows Phone. It’s available in the store for free. Download and take it for a spin! Let us know how you like it via comments.

Files | Windows Phone Store

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